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World AIDS Day is Monday

Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday signed a proclamation declaring Monday World AIDS Day in Hawai‘i. She urged all citizens to reaffirm their commitment to combat HIV/AIDS and to support those affected by this disease.

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus which kills or damages immune system cells, eventually leaving the body unable to protect itself from infections and disease.

The World Health Organization and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS estimate that 33.2 million people worldwide have HIV/AIDS. In 2007 alone, 2.1 million people around the globe died from this deadly disease.

According to the Hawai‘i Department of Health, as of December 2007, a total of 3,011 AIDS cases had been reported in the state.

Since 1987, UNAIDS has observed World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 of each year. This is a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, as well as a time to reflect upon the importance of providing compassion, support and medical assistance for individuals afflicted with the disease.

World AIDS Day will be observed throughout the islands in various ways, one of which is the World AIDS Day Youth Leadership Challenge, a statewide contest for middle and high school students, giving them the opportunity to share their creative ideas to lead the fight against AIDS, a news release from governor’s office states.

Despite these efforts to raise awareness and improve treatment, there is still no cure for HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day reminds us of the importance of testing for HIV/AIDS and employing preventative strategies to reduce and eliminate discrimination, stigmas and prejudices against people who are fighting this disease.

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